I’ve been thinking a lot lately about demographics and labels. One of my newest is Author Of A Neglected Blog (there are hordes of us; we could form a voting bloc and take over a city somewhere). Dear Blog Neglecters: you’ll get no judgment from me. I’m one of you now.
Labels are so easy to use as a means of dismissal. Hippy! Fascist! There, now I don’t have to talk to you, listen to you, recognize the reality of your human experience. I feel that most of my own judgment comes from a fear of being judged, and my own assumptions come from a need to relate to others. We label things we don’t understand, things that we fear because of their difference.
It’s not always a bad thing to label, though. One of the most useful interactions I had while pregnant with my first went like this: a coworker asked about my plans for birth, and I told her I was considering a home birth. She said, without any judgment one way or another, “Oh, you’re a crunchy mom.” I had no idea what that label signified. I actually sat down and googled “crunchy mom” – and discovered connections to ideas I didn’t know existed! Her offhand label for me was incredibly useful. So you don’t have to google it: crunchy signifies a certain tendency toward the natural – presumably derived from the sound of chewing granola?
I’m certainly not the crunchiest, but the label fits pretty well in general. I’m thankful she offered it to me, rather than giving me advice about pregnancy/birth/parenting from her own perspective (which was pretty far off from crunchy, as far as I could tell). In the Age of Internets, it’s easy enough to find your own advice, once you know where to start looking. Sometimes it’s useful to know which labels are being used, so you can find your herd.
This is kinda only tangentially related.. but it has got me thinking more about identity lately, in a certain way. Check out our new bucket bike!
This identity of Family Biker is not too comfortable yet, mostly because my legs/butt are still wimpy enough that I can’t ride all over the place, and because the littlest munchkin isn’t always happy with the bike. But it’s so much fun to get places under my own power, especially with kids in tow. I’m growing into it.
This beauty came to us via craigslist. Sylvan came with me to the other side of town to thoroughly check it out before purchasing. At half price it was still pretty spendy (though when compared to the cost of a second car, not so bad at all!) so I didn’t want to get it if he wasn’t comfortable riding in it, or if I was way too wimpy to pedal it with kid weight. But when we got there, he refused to sit in it. I tried to be all cool about it, wait him out – I even borrowed the seller’s kid for a ride down the block and back, quite generous of them all (these guys were really cool – later I found out they were friends-of-friends – small world!) while Sylvan sat in the car harrumphing. Having determined my legs could do bucket bike + kid, I still wanted to know if my particular kid would work in combination with the idea. I cajoled. I harrumphed back. I even called Kaleb (I’m calling your father!) to tell him we were stuck. Then I told the sellers we might not be able to commit today, that I was close to giving up on my grumpy kid. I was in a pretty foul mood about this. They offered a consolation popsicle that Sylvan gruffly declined, said he didn’t want a popsicle, he wanted a sno-cone. Oh, there’s a sno-cone place a few blocks that way, she said. Sensing a way in, I suggested sno-cones all around if Sylvan hopped in the bucket. Suddenly, he was game for a ride.
So I !finally! buckled the stinker in and took off on our test drive. The bike handled easily, gears worked great up the little hills on the way. It was a couple months ago, one of the first nearly hot days of pre-summer, and I was sweating a bit when we found the sno-cone cart, across a busy street. We waited in the long line for about 10 minutes with the giant bike, which is fairly unwieldy when not in motion. As I teetered, imagining myself as a Person Who Owns A Giant Bike, we chatted about which flavors we wanted and which kind to get for Waylon (the kid I borrowed for the first test drive). Sno-cones were obtained. The bicycle was working out. The kid was happy and functioning socially. I still wasn’t sure about this big purchase, but the shift from shitty day to smooth sailing was making me feel a bit giddy at this point, coasting up to the stoplight to head back across the busy street.
And then two of the three sno-cones dumped onto the floor of the bucket.
And I kinda lost it.
I backed the bike up and parked it on the sidewalk. Bent myself double, hanging my head inside the bucket to scoop out the huge sugary mess I had just created in this bike that wasn’t mine. Marveled at the hubris of handing 3 sno-cone cups to a 4-year-old on the back of a bike. Between tossing handfuls of bright red syrup onto the sidewalk, I sort of howled into the bucket. I cried a little. I cried over spilled sno-cones. A mom in an SUV waiting for the light made eye contact, and silently communicated her pity.
I found a lone baby wipe in the deepest recesses of my purse. Once I had swabbed the bottom of the bucket relatively clean, I straightened up, wiggled my stained red fingers at Sylvan, and laughed. He laughed too, at his wacko mom. I looked him in the eye and said come on, let’s go buy this bike. We can be Bike People. This will work out fine.
Does it add or subtract drama if the punch line is that I got my period the next day? Then we could at least slap the label Hormonal over Wacko and I don’t sound quite so ridiculous. I’d like to think that maybe the SUV mom made up a good excuse for me like that, so her pity could mix with empathy. Maybe she’s cried over the equivalent of spilled sno-cones at some point too. At least the bucket is easier to hose down than car upholstery.
Speaking of vehicular spills and compassion for strangers, a student of mine recently told me her grandma advocates The Crock Pot Principle. If someone in front of her in traffic is moving frustratingly slow, she tells herself they must have a Crock Pot full of hot soup in the passenger seat, and they don’t want it to spill on the way to the pot luck. Then she’s still driving slowly, but she’s no longer angry about it. She’s created a feeling of support for a stranger, by consciously changing her assumptions about the situation. The Crock Pot Principle assumes the best about everyone, creating positive stories about events outside of our control. And let’s face it, every single thing that ever happens falls into this category.
If you want to, you can substitute a giant sno-cone for a Crock Pot. I think it’s a little more believable in June in Texas.
Anyway, if I don’t post again for another couple months, you can tell yourself a happy little story to explain my silence.